Saturday, November 29, 2008

FILM: Slumdog Millionaire

What an amazingly original movie we saw on Thanksgiving Day. Slumdog Millionaire tells the tale of a boy who, with his brother and a young girl are all orphaned at an early age in the slums of Mumbai. The tale is told through the novel framing device of the game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?", where the main character, Jamal, is a contestant and is defying all expectations by answering all the questions, despite his unlikely background. The questions all touch off flashbacks to experiences in his life which lead him to know the answer to that question. His life is an amazing tale of pluck, faith, and fortitude in the face of all kinds of wretched circumstances. Jamal and his brother Salim have a touchingly strong loyalty to look out for one another, and though they get separated from the young girl Latika early on in their childhood, Jamal never gives up his love of her and his faith that they are destined to be together. Even though you know the inevitable Bollywood ending, the twists and turns in their life to get there are unpredictable and utterly engrossing. The characters are wonderful. Despite his remorselessness about fraud and stealing when he needed to just to live, Jamal also has an earnest forthrightness than he never loses throughout his hard life. There are three actors for each main character for childhood, youth, and adult scenes, and all of them are well-cast and terrific. The childhood actors are completely charming (without trying too hard to be so), and the youth and adult actors carry their characters forward with natural transition and increasing complexity. The cinematography is straightforward and real, with some wide shots that are beautiful at the same time as unflinching about the pervasive poverty depicted. The director keeps a very realistic viewpoint through it all, not going all Bollywood until the very end. Ultimately, we found the film outstandingly original, transporting, and even inspirational.

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